Never again will the professional wrestling industry experience another era quite as hostile and aggressive as the Monday Night Wars. Both World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment were at their absolute peaks throughout the 1990s, and yet neither was content sharing the largest ever television wrestling audience with the other. The one thing Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff had in common was a desperate desire to destroy each other, and ultimately, it was McMahon who reigned supreme, using his WWE to drive WCW out of business once and for all.
The book may be closed on the overall battle, but the details of various chapters are still just seeping out on the Internet to this day. Even those paying close attention at the time didn’t notice every shady tactic WCW attempted while gunning for WWE’s spot on top of the industry. Nor could anyone have caught the many equally questionable ways Vince did whatever he could to not only ensure his rivals not only would fail to surpass him, but also that they’d rue the day they dared challenge him in the first place.
Easily the most visible, shocking, and perhaps plain old stupid method employed by both WCW and WWE during their war was flat-out stealing from the competition in broad daylight. Both sides attempted to pull this off more than once, with fans always noticing, typically resulting in mockery toward the thief for even daring to try. Then again, turnabout is fair play, and we’re not sure where this started, so we’re just going to focus on the specifics on why it was so dumb. To learn those details, keep reading and discover 8 ideas WCW stole from WWE and 7 that WWE stole from WCW.
15. WCW Stole From WWE: Oklahoma — Thievery Or Mockery? How About Just Awful
Technically speaking, genuine parody is a whole lot different than creative theft. Unfortunately, WCW’s answer to Jim Ross, writer-turned terrible wrestler Ed Ferrara, also known as Oklahoma, was so offensively bad that it hardly gets a pass for artistic merits. Good Old JR is considered one of the greatest announcers in wrestling history and his commentary was iconic, so we get why WCW wanted to at least reference it. However, their version of JR’s folksy wisdom was simply a mockery of his Bell’s palsy, with a bit of misogyny thrown in for kicks via his feud with Madusa. Oklahoma also helped along the slow death of the cruiserweight division by briefly reigning as its champion. Thankfully, JR never sank to such depths, but that severe deviance from the source material is also another reason why the character didn’t work.
14. WWE Stole From WCW: Demolition Were The Road Warriors
This entry might feel a little anachronistic, because the reign of Demolition, arguably WWE’s greatest tag team of the ’80s, came and went before WCW even existed. WCW’s roots as the NWA nonetheless make this totally possible. In fact, Ted Turner purchased the company roughly around the same time the Ax and the Smasher became walking disasters. However, neither of those things happened until well after The Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal, had already become iconic in their own right. Big, mean, donned in spiky leather, and wearing wild face paint, Demolition and The Road Warriors were virtually identical from a character perspective. Granted, Demolition alone in stealing the gimmick, as other teams like the Blade Runners, the Powers of Pain, and even modern-day teams like The Ascension have all stolen from the classic formula. Demolition were definitely the most successful of all these knock-offs, though, reigning as WWE Tag Team Championships for record lengths despite clearly being no more than pale imitations of an NWA team.
13. WCW Stole From WWE: The Original Fingerpoke Of Doom
Believe it or not, one of the worst things ever to happen in WCW wasn’t even the company’s idea. A pivotal moment in the Monday Night Raw came on January 4, 1999, when Nitro countered Mankind winning the WWE Championship with the so-called Fingerpoke of Doom. What that means is Hollywood Hogan poked Kevin Nash in the chest to win the WCW Championship and reform the nWo, also hitting the reset button on the last year and a half of all major storylines. There was a lot to hate about how the segment disrespected the Big Gold Belt and made everything fans cared about irrelevant, but given the nature of this list, we’ll focus on the fact it wasn’t the first Fingerpoke of Doom in wrestling. Less than two years earlier, Triple H and Shawn Michaels basically did the same thing on a 1997 episode of Raw for the European Championship. The difference is, because D-Generation X were disrespectful jokesters, it actually worked and wasn’t just stupid and embarrassing.
12. WWE Stole From WCW: The Cruiser/Lightweight Division
To this day, WWE has a reputation in the wrestling world as a land of monsters, giants, and otherwise large individuals. Sure, smaller superstars can get extremely popular and even make their way to the main event, but Vince McMahon will always default to the big lug over the high flier. Of course, this tendency used to be even worse before WCW proved to Vince that there might be something to the 220 pounds and under crowd after all. In the mid ’90s, WCW’s cruiserweight scene was at times even more popular than anything the heavyweights were doing. Men like Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio were setting the bar extremely high for wrestlers of all sizes. Eventually, WWE had no choice but to make a cruiserweight division of their own, albeit one called the light heavyweight division. With all due respect to Taka Michinoku, the results were largely underwhelming, as Vince could never quite commit to the idea.
11. WCW Stole From WWE: Half Their Main Event Scene
Of all the things WCW stole from WWE, this is probably the one that earned them the most criticism. Aside from the first few years of WCW’s existence, virtually every wrestler in their main event scene spent at least a little time in WWE. There were some exceptions, like Sting, “Diamond” Dallas Page, or Goldberg, but even they didn’t receive the same reverence as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bret Hart, or especially Hollywood Hogan. While WWE also stole a handful of stars from WCW, they usually gunned after lower tier wrestlers who weren’t reaching their potential. WCW simply took main eventers and asked them to switch companies for a higher paycheck. This helped pop a rating in the short term, but it wasn’t long before a lack of new, unique stars slowly spelled WCW’s demise.
10. WWE Stole From WCW: D-Generation X
Given the always controversial nature of D-Generation X, it’s only appropriate this entry might not be one everyone agrees with. For the most part, the New World Order and D-Generation X had almost nothing in common. The nWo were evil outside invaders, while DX were fun loving goofballs making a mockery of WWE. For some reason, though, many fans have tried to argue the groups shared recklessness and disregard for authority meant DX was just a knock-off. In addition to the similarities being few and far between, what little connection there was didn’t have much significance — almost every wrestler of that era also hated authority and liked raising hell. All DX and the nWo really had in common is that they were extremely popular stables, they existed during the Attitude Era, and both produced World Champions. We’ll let you decide if that constitutes a rip-off, as in our book, it’s just barely qualifies because some people won’t stop talking about it.
9. WCW Stole From WWE: What’s Bigger Than Chyna?
When WCW was at its absolute worst, the company didn’t even bother trying to hide the fact they were stealing from WWE in the slightest. Case in point, the big, buff, silent bodyguard of Shane Douglas and The Revolution clearly based on D-Generation X’s relationship with the Ninth Wonder of the World, Chyna. What could possibly be greater than the only female WWE Intercontinental Champion in history? Why, Asya, of course. As if the naming convention wasn’t indicative of how bad an idea it was, the woman WCW chose for the role also happened to heavily lack in the charisma and wrestling departments. Quite frankly, Asya’s job was just to stand around and look like Chyna. Unsurprisingly, wrestling fans caught on to how stupid it was and pretty much ignored everything she did (which wasn’t much).
8. WWE Stole From WCW: The Spoils Of War Games
At this point, it isn’t really possible for WWE to steal from WCW, and not just because the latter company is out of business. So total was Vince McMahon’s destruction of his rivals that he now owns everything it produced, including match ideas, event names, and of course, the video library. It’s the last one that brings fans to the WWE Network, but nowadays, Vince seemed more interested in the first two. Recently, WWE revived the name Starrcade for a much ballyhooed house show, and the legendary War Games gimmick was revived for an NXT TakeOver. Because WWE owns everything WCW created, this is perfectly legal and not exactly theft. That WCW is out of business also kind of makes it irrelevant anyway. The fact remains they never could’ve gotten away with it when WCW was still around, though, and these ideas didn’t come from Vince.
7. WCW Stole From WWE: Caged Heat Is Hell In A Cell
Since its introduction at Bad Blood 1997, the Hell in a Cell structure has been the most imposing and violent in wrestling. WWE has been getting some flak for overdoing it these days, but back in the Attitude Era, Hell in a Cell was the newest, biggest, and most violent gimmick match around. Naturally, this also made it the most popular, and WCW wanted in on the action. They tried upping the ante with a Triple Cage, but when that didn’t work, they just started using a cage identical to the Hell in a Cell structure called “Caged Heat.” In a way, we don’t even blame them, as it makes sense to adapt the hottest thing going, however, they could to make it legal. The problem is, every time WCW used the Caged Heat/Hell in a Cell gimmick, the results were horrible. One of the first was Kidman versus The Wall, a random midcard match with no significance. Another happened on Nitro and featured Vince Russo, which should really say it all. If the point was to make WWE’s coolest match in a while look stupid as hell, they succeeded.
6. WWE Stole From WCW: The Real World’s Championship
Credit where it’s due, Vince McMahon just does not give a damn what anyone says about him. Think he stole a couple of ideas from the competition? Most of this stuff didn’t even happen until after he already flagrantly paraded around their Big Gold Belt as his own. And because Vince has some of the best lawyers in the world, he did it entirely legally. Granted, Vince didn’t really have anything to do with this one, as it was really Ric Flair’s decision from beginning to end. In late 1991, Flair still reigned as WCW Champion when he was fired from the company, and because the Nature Boy legally possessed their iconic belt, he offered to show it off on WWE TV. WCW naturally did whatever they could to stop it, and it was only a couple months before Flair had to give it back, but for a short period, Vince effortlessly got away with a major theft in plain sight.
5. WCW Stole From WWE: The Hardcore Division
Truth be told, the phenomenon that was hardcore wrestling in the 1990s had nothing to do with WWE, nor WCW’s extremely pale attempts at following the trend. The true innovators of violence were those working for a small independent promotion in Philly known as EC F’n W. That said, ECW was around for about 6 full years before WWE decided to cash in on their notoriety and start their very own hardcore division. Another year later, WCW followed suit with their own abysmal attempts at taking wrestling to the extreme. Critics might argue the WWE hardcore division wasn’t that great to begin with, but it produced a number of memorable comedy segments and unforgettable champions like Raven, Crash Holly, Steve Blackman, and Al Snow. The WCW version had nothing but an embarrassing string of injuries and really questionable champions, including Eric Bischoff, making the whole thing feel like a bad joke.
4. WWE Stole From WCW: The Evil Boss
For many decades, the industry standard in professional wrestling was for company owners to largely remain unseen. Vince McMahon Sr. especially was against the idea of promoters appearing on screen, and his son followed the family tradition by hiding his true position and masking himself as a lowly announcer until the late 1990s when the truth came out. McMahon didn’t decide to give away the big reveal until an almost identical scenario played out about a year earlier in WCW. Eric Bischoff may not have owned the company, instead simply serving as the executive vice president, but his on-air career path was identical — mild-mannered announcer to secret owner to evil mastermind. People can debate forever whether Eric or Vince did it better, yet the point of this list is that Eric did it first. With this in mind, maybe The Corporation had more in common with the nWo than D-Generation did.
3. WCW Stole From WWE: Oh, You Didn’t Know About Buzzkill?
According to Jim Ross, and as agreed upon by some luminaries at the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Brad Armstrong may well have been the most underrated wrestler of the 1990s. From a technical standpoint, Armstrong was a phenomenal wrestler, easily the most talented inside the ring amongst his brothers. WCW rewarded this a bit in the early ’90s with a Light Heavyweight Championship reign, but he faded into jobber obscurity by the end of the decade. His brother Brian, on the other hand, used the ’90s to propel himself to national fame as an WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion of the World, The Road Dogg Jesse James. Capitalizing on his brother’s fame in WWE, Brian Armstrong started dressing in a similar manner to Road Dogg, using marijuana and hippie references in his promos and calling himself Buzzkill. The only problem was that what Brian had in ring skills, he lacked in his brother’s charisma, and it was that second factor that mattered more during the Attitude Era.
2. WWE Stole From WCW: WrestleMania Is The New Starrcade
As is the case with Demolition and the Road Warriors, the fact Vince McMahon stole the idea for WrestleMania from Starrcade wasn’t technically WWE stealing from WCW; it was them stealing from the NWA. Again, however, we would argue the difference is insignificant, especially compared to the more pressure issue is that Vince McMahon’s greatest and most successful idea ever wasn’t his idea. WrestleMania is often pointed to as the turning point when it became clear WWE would achieve sports entertainment manifest destiny as far more than a regional New York promotion. Vince was painted as the genius who realized how to combine everything great about pro wrestling into one great show, even though Jim Crockett worked with the NWA to do the exact same thing a year and a half earlier. In fact, super cards had existed for years throughout wrestling history, all serving basically the same purpose. That said, Vince was the first “genius” who realized how to stretch one single show into seven or more hours of spectacle.
1. WCW Stole From WWE: World War 3 Is A Royal Rumble Gone Wild
No matter how bad WWE or pro wrestling can get there’s also the Royal Rumble — one match every year where everyone in the business gets an hour to prove they’re the best wrestler in the world. Even when the winner leaves fans feeling flat, the Royal Rumble always provides an incredible memorable moment or two, and once again, we don’t blame WCW for trying to rip it off. It just so happens that their attempt at doing so was horrible, failing in every way it was meant to improve the idea. Stretched across three rings and with twice as many wrestlers, but somehow, usually half as long, World War 3 lacked storytelling in every way the Royal Rumble guaranteed it. Bigger is most certainly not always better, and with WCW, it was just disastrous. Despite containing 60 wrestlers all with unique skills and characters, so much was happening no one could pay attention to it. Ultimately, one of the three World War 3 matches were notable or worthwhile in the slightest, and it’s one gimmick match we’re all sure will never happen again.
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